by Graham Pierrepoint
You would assume hippopotamuses to be a fairly resilient species – after all, they’re possibly the fastest thing alive to be able move around at the speed they do – and while they may seem fairly fearsome close-up, they’re not completely immune to deadly diseases and the like. It’s never advised that you go looking for hippos – hundreds of people die each year thanks to hippo attacks – but it seems that the mud-dwelling stompers have something else to worry about other than humans if a recent report is to be believed.
It’s been reported that last month around 100 hippos died at Bwabwata National Park in Namibia in just a week – a colossal number for such a relatively short space of time. The body count has left zoo authorities and visitors alike baffled – what could be felling these goliath creatures at such an alarming rate? The answer, it seems, could be in the soil – and it’s down to the nasty work of an infection you may not have thought of.
The disease in question is anthrax – which can result in fatalities in humans as it can in other animals – and it seems that it could be to blame for the falling rate of hippos at the National Park. The bacterial disease is a huge killer of various livestock and it’s largely thanks to spores found in soil that they make their way into the systems of those who may otherwise be gently grazing. Anthrax spores can largely be found in arid conditions – though it’s not the first time that so many animals have been felled by the disease.
Watch: Anthrax May Have Caused the Sudden Death of 100 Hippos
Hippos and elephants alike have previously been killed in a similar outbreak in Namibia almost 15 years ago – though it is fairly alarming to authorities that this current case has occurred within a National Park and that it has taken hold on such a scale. The issue is still being investigated – and locals are being advised not to approach any of the animals, and that their meat be left unhunted and uneaten.
Anthrax has long been a fear of people across the Western world, too – it’s been a staple of bioterrorism – and while death from Anthrax on the whole can be very rare among humans, it is still a despicably nasty infection that must be avoided at all costs. Here’s hoping the hippo conundrum is resolved sooner rather than later.